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  • August 2020
    M T W T F S S

A Priest, a Muslim, and a Rabbi Walk Into a Room (An Interpretive Good Friday Reflection)

Only here’s the joke . . .

You’re the priest. The muslim is a Palestinian terror suspect. And the rabbi – yeah, you guessed right – it’s Jesus.

(BTW you’re probably not really a priest in the Catholic sense – I’m referring to the evangelical notion of the priesthood of all believers -in other words the priest is you if you are a modern evangelical leaning Christian. If you’re something else – then I guess you’re an independent observer – sit back in the corner and watch it unfold.)

The room is spartan. There’s a table, four folding chairs, a pitcher of water, and a bright light.

No one looks very happy to be here. The Muslim looks half-way between scared and defiant, you look a little confused, and Jesus – well he’s hard-to-read no matter what. The three of you sit down in silence. The Palestinian is scowling at the table. Jesus is looking you in the eye. You find something very interesting about the white spot on your right thumbnail. A moment passes and you wonder who the fourth seat is for. Jesus nods at you knowingly. The bright light is hot. You’re incredibly thirsty. You reach for the water pitcher but realize there are no glasses. You start sweating.

Jesus picks up a remote control that you hadn’t seen on the table and turns on a TV mounted to the wall behind him. It’s big. It’s bright. It’s plasma. You wonder if Jesus watches Sports Center but he clicks to a news channel. Report after depressing report stream across the screen as newsreaders drone on about this or that disaster, conflict, or economic woe. Reports from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Gaza fill the stifling room with tension.

Jesus glances at the door a moment before it opens. It’s an Israeli. He bustles in apologizing under his breath for being late and sits down between you and Jesus. He doesn’t look any happier than you or the terror suspect to be here.

“You’re probably wondering why I’ve called you here today.” You always wondered what Jesus’ voice would sound like. It wasn’t what you expected.

You’re all looking at him now. And he nods his head at the plasma TV without looking at it, “I think you know. It’s time we did something about this mess. I’ve prepared an agenda.”

You’re startled by a crisp white sheet of paper that you hadn’t noticed in front of you before. It’s smallish and looks rather like a prescription form. Across the top in bold red letters you read “WWJD.”

“I know people have been wondering for a long time what I would do about the global threat of terror and the endless string of conflicts that are tearing apart my homeland and the surrounding region. So, I just wanted to call all of you in to make it clear. You can just write down what I tell you today on those sheets of paper, I’ll sign off on it and everything will be ok.” Jesus isn’t smiling. You’re pretty sure he’s not joking and you’ve got this nasty knot in the pit of your stomach.

He turns to the Muslim and says, “Look, I’m the second most respected prophet in Islam, right?”

The Palestinian nods his head.

“So here’s what I want you to do. Go back to your country and stir up a rebellion. Use whatever means necessary to throw off your oppressors. My hometown of Bethlehem is surrounded by this hideous wall – knock it down. Shoot rockets at any town you can, blow yourself and other people up until you break free from the yoke of oppression.”

You and the Jewish guy are getting pretty upset at this point, but Jesus holds up his hand, “I know, I know – this contradicts my command to love your neighbor as yourself, but these are extreme circumstances and I am for freedom and against oppression. Besides that command never made it into the Qur’an and this guy never read the New Testament so how can I expect him to love his Israeli neighbors?”

Jesus scrawls his signature across the bottom of the Muslim’s slip of paper. The Palestinian quickly gets up and leaves the room. You catch yourself wondering what Jesus’ signature looks like.

Then Jesus turns to the Israeli. “Your people are my people and I’m deeply pained at all you’ve gone through in the past 100 years. You know what it says in the Torah – an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. You’ve got to do what it takes to stop that guy. I’d suggest airstrikes. Strike swiftly and powerfully. Even if you have to kill some kids in the process – that’s ok – do you think they would care about killing your kids? Of course not.”

You are speechless. Dumbfounded. You begin to protest, but Jesus holds up his hand, “I know, I know – this contradicts my command to love your enemies, and seems to run counter to what I said about letting the children come to me. But this guy is Jewish. He’s never read the New Testament so how could I expect him to do any differently?”

Jesus signs the Israeli’s slip of paper and the man quickly gets up and leaves the room. You catch yourself wondering how much Jesus’ signature would fetch on E-bay.

Then Jesus turns to you. He hands you a gun, a rough piece of cloth, and a briefcase. You look confused. “Look, those two guys are going to mess this whole thing up. You’ve got to act and act fast. There is a ton of money in the briefcase. As much as you need. You’re going to have to start throwing a lot of money at this thing if you are ever going to resolve it. The gun? Oh there’s a lot more where that came from – and you’ll need every single one of them. By the way, you’ll probably need to share them with both sides, just to be fair. But make sure you give a few more to the Israelis – they are my people after all. ”

You hold up the cloth with a quizzical look.

“Oh right – that.” He pushes the pitcher of water towards you. “That goes with this. If you ever catch that first guy you can use those to waterboard him for important information.”

You open you’re mouth to reply but no sound comes out.

“Oh, right. You don’t know how to waterboard. That’s ok, I’ll show you how before you go. Any other questions?”

“But . . .”

“I know, I know – this all seems to contradict what I commanded about loving your neighbor as yourself, loving your enemies, putting others before yourself, and pretty much most of the New Testament – even the stuff that Paul wrote. But these are extenuating circumstances. And those nice things you read in the Bible don’t really apply to government activity or military action, you know – separation of church and state and all. Besides haven’t you read the Old Testament? There’s a lot of war in that one. And Revelation? When I come back it’s with a sword dude. Chip-chop. Off with you now – you’ve got a lot of guns and money to throw at that mess in the Middle East. I expect some progress before our next meeting.”

Jesus signs off on your slip of paper. His signature doesn’t look anything like what you expected. You wonder if anyone on E-bay would even believe it’s his.


Doesn’t exactly sound like the Jesus you know? Yeah, me neither.

Try the following scene as an alternative.


The room is spartan. There’s a table, four folding chairs, a pitcher of water, and a bright light.

You’re sitting there between a Palestinian and an Israeli. Neither looks like they want to be there. Jesus is sitting across from you and a big plasma screen TV is behind him blaring news of conflict in the Middle East.

“You’re probably wondering why I called you here today.” You always wondered what Jesus’ voice would sound like. It wasn’t what you expected.

You’re all looking at him now. And he nods his head at the plasma TV without looking at it, “I think you know. It’s time we did something about this mess. I’ve prepared an agenda.”

Immediately the Israeli and Palestinian start arguing with each other. They’re debating who’s to blame for the latest wave of violence. They both start pointing to you and reluctantly you jump into the fray, arguing for America’s support of Israel, military presence in the Middle East, and stance against terror. For an hour the three of you argue and bicker about whose version of history and interpretation of current events is correct. Your blood is about to boil over and you’re about to call for a timeout when you realize that Jesus has been strangely quiet. He’s the one who called the meeting. What does he have to say? Didn’t he have some sort of agenda put together?

You look over at him and your breath catches in your throat. His head is sagging to his chest and his hands are limp on the table. He’s bruised and covered in blood.

The Israeli jumps up and feels his wrist, “No pulse, and he’s not breathing!”

The Palestinian points out a note clenched in Jesus’ right hand. It’s crumpled and bloodstained.

Shaking, you open it up and read it aloud, “I died so you and your peoples don’t have to. Get with the program. See you in three days.”


For those of us who call ourselves Christians on this Good Friday, we should remember the following from the book of 1st Corinthians:

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. (in context here)

Has Jesus called us to be agents of death or agents of life? WWJD in the today’s Middle East? No easy answers to that one – but I wonder if we’re asking the right questions. Or if we are recreating Jesus in our own convenient image?

Killing Our Enemies One Bumper Sticker at a Time

I don’t know about you, but I have a love-hate relationship with bumper stickers; in that I love to read them, but would hate to put one on my own car. Especially when it comes to so-called “Christian” bumper stickers. Or even Jesus fish. I would never think of putting one of those on my bumper. It’s not that I’m ashamed to tell people I’m a follower of Jesus – I’m just not convinced that displaying my faith or religious beliefs on my bumper is an effective way to communicate. And when it comes right down to it, I’m not sure my driving is worthy of the gospel stamp of approval.

Christian bumper stickers are probably, for the most part, inocuous. Take for instance “No Jesus, No Peace. Know Jesus, Know Peace.” Cute, but I doubt it has led too many people to a deeper walk with Him. Or, “My Boss is a Jewish Carpenter.” Again, possibly clever if you’re a Christian who knows what it means. I’ve seen non-Christians have varied responses to this one – from simply puzzled, to wondering if it was a strange form of antisemitism. Of course the Jesus fish is a good way to identify other Christian drivers so we can contain our road rage when they cut us off in traffic. Other than that I think it was responsible for starting the highbrow bumper debate of the century – Jesus Fish or Darwin Toothy Amphibi-thingy?

Most Christian bumper stickers are really pretty much forgettable in my book. That is until I saw this particular one on a very innocent seeming bumper in the parking lot of a very nice church in Florida. This one put me over the edge. And not in a good way. I should add a disclaimer here: the bumper sticker I am about to describe was not necessarily of the “Christian” variety, but it was surrounded by so many sticky-backed Christian platitudes that it was guilty by association.

“Do not hesitate to, or apologize for killing America’s enemies.”

I did a quadruple take.

Right there on a bumper in the church parking lot. Surrounded by smarmy Christian bumper stickers. Don’t hesitate to kill your enemies. Oh – and don’t apologize for it either.

Yeah that sounds like something Jesus would say.

(editor’s note: re-read that last sentence with a sarcastic tone if you did not already)

I am the first to admit that I may be incredibly naive when it comes to national security. Some Christians have pointed out to me that Jesus wasn’t talking about national security when he told his disciples to love their enemies. Funny, that. I thought the Romans were some of the most brutal occupying forces in the history of the world. Sounds like national security to me.

Is it naive to “give peace a chance” as John Lennon once crooned? Admittedly we are mired in a war right now, and we can’t just pull out of it. But I’m thinking of the longer term picture. Let’s say we some how wrap up the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan – America is still going to have enemies. Probably even more than we do now. What will we do then? Continue to kill our enemies? Kill lest we be killed?

But hasn’t history proven that violence begets violence. The Bible says that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. Isn’t that why Jesus said, “You have heard it said an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but I say to you love your enemies.” I know that’s a tall order. And I’m not even sure what that looks like in today’s context.

But what about Gandhi? He was faced with an impossible situation, resolved himself to fight by peaceful means – and he prevailed. What about Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu? Did they take up arms to fight and kill their enemies? Did Martin Luther King, Jr.? The violent/militant factions of his time did not prevail, but rather the tactics of peace, including self-sacrifice, won out in the end. These are world class leaders whose place in history cannot be argued.

But think about it for a moment. What if MLK had been the kind of leader who said “do not hesitate or apologize for killing our enemies.” And what if his followers had been so crass to put the slogan on a bumper sticker. That would have been insanity.

Why isn’t it insanity today?